Posted by: Frederik Balfour on April 30, 2008
I have to admit I’m a lot more stoked about the Hong Kong leg of the Olympic Torch Relay on May 2 more than I’d originally thought I would be. Thanks to the torch’s turbulent journey during the past few weeks, chances are Hong Kong will see some of its most defiant protests since the World Trade Organization held a round of talks here back in December 2005 and we reporters will have something meaty to write about.
I always look forward to that adrenalin rush when protesters and police hold a stand-off in the streets and I’m pretty sure I won’t be disappointed on Friday when the 30 kilometer race takes place. Some 3000 police will be deployed along the route, and despite the best attempts by Hong Kong authorities to keep undesirables out of the territory—at several well known human rights activists have been denied entry in recent days according to press reports.
But I reckon the folks at immigration know better than to turn away Mia Farrow, leader of the activist group, Dream for Darfur. Although Hong Kong is painfully aware it must not displease its masters in Beijing, I have no doubt the administration here got cleared the question of Farrow’s visit with them well in advance. Turning her away at the border would be a PR disaster for Hong Kong and China. Farrow will be speaking at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club luncheon on Friday, and as someone lucky enough to score a seat for her talk, May 2 is looking to be a real banner day.
Dream for Darfur has been highly critical of Olympic sponsors for their failure to pressure Beijing to revise its policy of supporting the Sudanese government. Coca Cola, one of the world wide sponsors, is also a sponsor of the torch relay in greater China. When I was working on a story about ambush marketing several weeks back, Coke was keen on having me join the festivities in Sanya, Hainan Island, where the torch will first hit the mainland. But the idea seems to have lost its appeal for the folks at Coke, who haven’t followed up on the suggestion.